Tag Archives: Adventure

An Adventure – CHEESESTEAKS!!!


Today’s Music: Fitz and the Tantrums – Don’t Gotta Work It Out
Days Til Spring: 55

*Discaimer – I was young and stupid(er) at the time. I don’t drive (often) like this anymore!

Conversation with co-workers went like this:
Guap: Want to have lunch tomorrow?
Brian: Sure
Sean: Yeah, why not.
Guap: Great. Meet me here tomorrow at 10.
Brian and Sean: What? Why?!?

Because we were in NYC. And for lunch, I thought a Philadelphia Cheesesteak would be nice. From Philadelphia.
Oh don’t look at me like that. You’ve thought it too.

Totally worth the trip.

So, the next day, at about 10, we piled into my car and headed for Philly.
This was in the days before mapquest or gps, so we just had the atlas I kept in the car.
Brian was the navigator. He sat in front with the map.
Sean was just along for the ride. He had two concerns: being fed, and meeting women.
I was the driver. I drove like a lunatic.

So we headed off. It’s about a three hour drive from where we were to where we were trying to get too. We did it in about two and a half. Should’ve been faster. Read on.

Conversation wandered over the normal range of topics among three guys that worked together in a kitchen: how much work sucked, which waitresses were cute, where we were going to work next when we moved on.
We hit Jersey and started kicking up dust, flying down the turnpike towards Philly at about 85 mph.
The road was wide open, and we flew.

As the driver, I had to let the Navigator know what our options were for exits and he had to figure out which one to take.
“Brian, we’re coming up on exit 8 in two miles” (at 85 mph, about 95 sec). “It says Philly. Is that where we want to go?”
“Hold on, let me find it”
“I mile, Brian”
“HOLD ON!”
“BRIAN, DO WE WANT THE EXIT?!?”
“YES!!! GET OFF!!!”
whoosh
“Too late. Never mind.”

At this point, Brian decided to read ahead on the atlas. He found the exit we wanted. A quarter of a mile before we wanted it. While we were in the left lane.
So we went from the left lane to the right lane to the exit ramp in one very smooth maneuver.
(Yes, I know you think that’s a terrible move, Kayjai. But it was a private car, not a taxi.)
Didn’t see any other cars to worry about.
Not even the cop.

Over his loudspeaker: “PAY THE TOLL AND PULLOVER.”
Great.
So we pay the toll (Me thinking, I have to pay the toll before they haul me in? That SUCKS!) and pull over.
Sean, taking off his headphones: “Why are we stopping?”
“We just got pulled over. Hang on, let’s not be any stupider than we have to be”

Cop gets out of his car. I have the window open, hands on the wheel in plain sight.
Cop: “Do you know how fast you were going?”
Guap – Laughing resignedly and shrugging: “70?”
Cop – Raising his eyebrow: 87 miles. per. hour.
Guapo – still laughing resignedly: “Yeah, I know…”
Cop: “Please step out of the car”
I get out.
Cop: “You want to tell me where you’re going?”
Guap – looking around and sighing: “Philadelphia, for cheesesteaks”
Cop, taking off his sunglasses: “What”
“Well you see, officer, we work together” (pointing at the car). “We had a day off, and thought it would be nice to go out for lunch. And we wanted cheesesteaks. So if you’re in the northeast and you want a cheesesteak” I continued, “you go to Philly”. I couldn’t stop from laughing again.
Cop looked at me for a minute. “Wait here.”
He walked over to the car and asked Brian to step out. He led him a few yards from the car and they spoke.
The cop walked back to the car, asked Sean to step out.
They walked a few yards from the car and Brian and spoke.
Cop looked at Sean, then Brian, then me and waved us all back to the car. We got in.
The cop took my license and registration and went back to his car to write up the ticket.

In the car, Brian Sean and I all talked about what just happened.
“He asked me where we were going” said Brian.
“Me too”, agreed Sean.
“What did you tell him?!?” I asked
Brian said “I was gonna lie, but I didn’t know what you said, so I told the truth.”
Sean nodded in agreement.
The trooper came back over holding paperwork.
“Okay”, he said. “This is a 55mph zone. For the speed you were doing, I could haul you in and impound your vehicle”. He pulled out the ticket. “I’ve written you up for doing 67. That’s the highest I can write without having you be arrested.” He handed me the ticket, and my license and reg. “Don’t drive like an idiot, enjoy your sandwiches”

He headed back to the car. I put my seat belt on and made sure the guys did too, not wanting to push my luck at all.
“Get his picture” came the voice from the back.
I turned to look at Sean. “Are you out. of. your. mind?”
“No, c’mon”, he insisted. “It’ll be cool” He pushed his camera at me.
I sighed. Looked at the camera. Got out of the car.
Walked over to the trooper, still parked at the toll plaza behind us.
He looked up. “Yes?”
“My friend would like a picture of you” I said, pointing at the car.
The cop looked at my car, then back at me. “Why?”
I looked at my car and then back at him. “I have absolutely no idea. But hey, doesn’t hurt to ask. The cop shook his head in a “wtf” kind of way and got out of his car. “Sure”.

Cheese (steak) it! The cops!!!

We made it to the Philadelphia exit with no further troubles. Now we just needed to find a cheesesteak.
(Oh, don’t look at me like that. Does it look so far like any of this trip was planned?)

Fortunately, there was one last toll before we left the highway, just before the harbor area. We asked the attendant.
“Oh, cheesesteaks?” he said. “You can get them anywhere.”
“Yeah”, I answered, but we want really good ones…”
He laughed, “Then you want Pats” he replied, and gave us directions (that we could follow!!!) right to Pat’s front door.

Pat, and his competitor Gino, are Philadelphia cheesesteak institutions. They both have ridiculously fanatical adherents,each side swearing that their guy makes a better sandwich.
Want to find out for yourself? Well, they’re on opposite corners from each other so you can do it in one trip.
Pats is a small stand, with no interior. Walk up to the window (through which you can see a massive flattop griddle) and place your order – anything from a traditional up to ones with all sorts of toppings.
While you wait, look at the exterior walls. They are covered with celebrities who have paid homage to Pat and his delicious cheesesteak.
When your food is ready, take a seat at one of the picnic tables around the stand, or go across the street to the bleachers at the baseball field.
Place your napkins where they can be reached.
Unwrap.
Inhale the aroma…
Eat…
And…
ahhhhh….

Pat. The man behind the magic. (with Sean and Brian)

The meat, sliced thinly, cooked to juicy perfection on the griddle. Onions, peppers, mushrooms, sauteed as weel as any five star restaurant would give you, soaked in the juices of the meat. Cheese (Velveeta, baby!!!) oozing over the whole thing.
When the juice runs down your arm, you’ll want to lick it off so as not to lose any of that delicious taste. And no, you’ll have no shame about doing it.
Between the 3 of us, we went through seven cheesesteaks, each one better than the last.
We picked up a couple for the guys back home and, after profuse thank yous, hopped back in the car for a much more sedate trip home.
I’d like to say everyone really appreciated and enjoyed the cheesesteaks we brought back, but I can’t.
We ate them on the way.

What? There was traffic.

An Adventure – Learning to Climb – Part The Second


Today’s Music: James Brown – I Feel Good

In a previous post, I talked about learning to climb and my first trips up the face. Here are two more climbs that show some of what I love about it.
I’m trying to convey some of the excitement, you know, like in a great travelogue.
Hope you enjoy it.

There’s a climb at the Gunks called High Exposure
It’s 2 pitches (sections of climb). The first pitch starts up a lovely section of rock to the Grand Traverse Ledge, a gap in the rock that goes a long way across the face, parallel to the earth.

You go straight up, then follow the Grand Traverse Ledge to the right, where it opens up – it’s a  beautiful spot that looks over the surrounding area.

A beautiful spot to catch some sun.


Once you get up to the Grand traverse ledge, you pause a while, check your gear, have some water, and get ready to start the 2nd pitch.
You find some great holds and shimmy up just a bit to a small roof.

Something wonderful is about to happen...


Writing this, years after I first did this climb, my heart is beating faster as I try to describe what happened next to me.
I made it up to a smaller ledge beneath the roof in the above picture. I got into position for “The Move” – the specific pattern of motion to beat the crux (hardest part) of the climb.
I made it to the edge of the ledge and stopped, facing out into space.
I held my arms over my head. I was told by everyone we’d met at the base and on the ledge that there was a massive hold – bomber, as it’s called. I was told I wouldn’t be able to see it because of the positioning, but if I just reached over my head, it would be obvious.
They were all right. It was.
So there I am, feet on a solid base of rock. Head sticking out 200 feet over nothing. My hands in a deathgrip on the rock behind me.

To complete the move, lean forward, hold on to the rock, spin around, then just start climbing.
Climbing – no problem. I’d already made it up ~200 feet. Holding on to the rock? Also no problem. Did I mention the death grip.
Here’s the problem: Spin. Around.
Because during that moment, both of your feet are in motion, and for just a fraction of a second, you just have one (deathgrip) hand on the rock. While hanging face first over 200 feet of air.
I couldn’t do it. Fred was encouraging me. The other guys on the ledge were encouraging me. It’s The Move, what High Exposure is known for. It’s also where the climb gets it’s name – for the moment of that move, you are high and exposed.
So there I am, deathgrip, leaning forward, and frozen. Can’t get myself to commit an make the damn turn.

Do what now you say?


2 guys were rappelling down a few yards over and saw me. They stopped, seeing the trouble I was having, and probably hearing me ask Fred exactly how far out of his mind he was.
“Dude” called the first. “You’ve got it”.
“C’mon” chimed in the second. “You’re halfway there. Just step out”.
I thought about this for a second, feeling the moisture starting to build on my hands. I reached for more chalk (one hand at a time) from the small bag hanging at my waist.
“Fellas” I yelled back, “You’re both out of your minds. Who the hell does this?!?”
They laughed.
“Dude” said the first (must have been a surfer). “I went through the same thing my first time out. You’ll be fine”.
I took a deep breath and looked at the guys. I looked out over the forests surrounding the cliff. I even looked straight down.
I think my last thought was that this would be a great story if I made it, and a great eulogy if I didn’t.
I took a deep breath, and looked at the rock I was standing on.
One
Plant my foot and pivot
Two
Take one hand off the hold
Three
Swing my other foot around
Four
Grab back on and roll my other hand
Five
Step
Out…

That’s it. Three seconds later, I’m firmly and securely glued to the face about 7 feet above the crux. The rappellers, the guys on the ledge, Fred all cheering me on.

That’s what I love most about climbing. It’s not the harness (really, it isn’t!), not the bragging rights (well, it is a little). It’s the discovery of what this – 2 arms, 2 legs, torso and brain can do. It is the most full body sport I’ve ever tried. And every time I go, it. is. amazing. Even a half-assed day just doing easy pitches is a phenomenally well spent day.
And it’s being part of a small exclusive club that knows something that non-members won’t ever know. Until they try it.

On another trip with Fred, we did Slightly Roddy. 30 feet up, then climb out along a crack in the roof about 10 – 15 feet, hanging parallel to the earth.

Fred tries first. Gets up to the roof, starts climbing out
“You got me?” he calls.
I confirm that I’ve got almost no slack in the rope. He makes it out about 8 feet, working his way along the crack. He pauses. He curses. And off he comes.
He drops about 8 feet – length of the rope to the anchor, plus the two feet that I pop into the air catching his wieght.
We’re both laughing ourselves silly as I settle down and lower him to the ground.
Then it’s my turn.
I shoot right up the face – after all, I’ve done this a few times now.. Then I get to the roof.
There’s a crack, maybe an inch, inch and a half wide. The move is to pull your legs up, frog style, and jam in the tips of your toes. fingers are extended into the crack and “crimped”, so that the pressure on finger tips and second knuckle keeps your from swinging down head first.
A little further out, the crack widens. So in goes the whole fist.

So there I am, contorting myself like a tied up duck waiting for roasting, tensing every muscle I own to stay attached to this slab of rock, and my toes. Start. To Slip.

I’m a kid from the burbs. Sure, I’ve looked for adventures, learned to sail. I know how to ski and my roadtrips used to be legendary. But this? Never ever would have expected myself to be in this position, clinging to tons of Granite, from the bottom. At the mercy of the capricious rock.
And it’s funny.
So I start laughing. Hard. And harder. And Fred starts laughing.
Fortunately, I still had enough functioning brain to realize that if the feet went and the hands didn’t, I’d suffer an impromptu amputation.
So I managed to gasp “Fred! Coming off!”
He laughed back that he had me and down I swung, lowered gently to the ground.

We each tried it 3 more times before we were exhausted.
On the way back home, we stopped at the New Paltz distributor for a beer.
Because we earned it.

Sometimes you drink the beer, sometimes the beer drinks you...

An Adventure – Learning to Climb – Part The First


Today’s Music: Pink Floyd – Learning to Fly

Quick note – All Rock Face pictures copied from Mountain Project
Walking in for an opening shift at the restaurant one day, the conversation went like this:
Me (walking in): Hi Fred. Good weekend?
Fred (the bartender, doing his opening tasks): Real good. Went Rock Climbing.
Me (stopping): Sorry – what’s that again?
Fred: I went climbing up by New Paltz.
Me: You’re kidding.
Fred: No, It was great.
Me: You’re kidding.
Fred. No. At the Shawangunks
Me: You’re kidding
Fred (beginning to back away): We had a great time.
Me (bug-eyed): Wow!
Fred (smiling again) You want to go next time?

That’s all it took.

So two weeks later, we piled into Fred’s pickup and headed up to New Paltz. After a quick stop at Rock and Snow to rent my climbing gear, we hit the cliffs.

Conquering the cliff isn't the point. But it sure is fun.

Fred did an excellent job explaining the gear – Harness, shoes, carabiner, ATC (Air Traffic Controller – what your partner uses to prevent you from becoming jelly when you come off the cliff face).

Guys, the harness won't look good or feel good. The ATC will prevent unscheduled landings.

We get to the Gunks and hike up to the face. Fred gives me a “hi-how-ya-doin” on the basics of climbing, and then he shimmies up Dirty Chimney.

A nice simple shimmy up the chimney.

I follow. It’s like scrambling up a very steep hill, using your hands and feet. And you know what? It’s pretty damn cool.

So we move on to Classic – a 5.6.
(Climb difficulty is ranked as “5.x.” 5.0 – 5.1 is like Dirty Chimney – easy, some scrambling. 5.14 is the most difficult rank – like hanging upside down from a fingernail. Just one.)

It has all the elements of a classic climb, including the short roof by the climber.

Up we go. Fred climbs and places “pro” – protection. These are the bits that anchor our climbing rope to the cliff. I stand at the bottom, playing out the rope and making sure he has enough slack to move, but not so much that he’ll hit ground if he falls. He gets to the top and secures himself. It’s my turn.
I double and triple check that I’m tied in correctly. And off I go.

Here is the approach to climbing I’ve learned: Make sure your security is bulletproof. Make sure the rope anchors are bulletproof. Make sure your harness and atc are bulletproof.
Then climb like they aren’t there.
I put my hand on the face and find a spot for my foot. “Climbing” I yell up to Fred as I shift my weight, my other foot leaving the dirt floor. I’M CLIMBING!
I find little nubs of granite – think of pressing your hand down on a table dusted with sprinkles – that shouldn’t be big enough to hold a fly. But they’re big enough to support my weight as I lean into the cliff to lift my foot.
The tacky rubber on my shoes is enough to grab tiny outcroppings of rock, or even better, to do a “smear”.
A smear is splaying your fingers out against the rock, and pressing your upturned toes as hard as you can against it. Since climbing shoe rubber is very soft, it will grab the uneven surface of the rock.
If you’re on anything less than a 90 degree vertical, you should hold.
The problem is, the only way to test it is to put all your weight on it. Kind of a Pass/Fail thing. And I didn’t believe it would work until it did.
I make the first few moves with no problem. I’m about 6′ tall, so I can reach from hold to hold. I learn to extend my arms and support my weight by my skeleton as opposed to my muscles, which lets me last longer before getting tired.

I make it up, cleaning as I go. See, the rope is clipped into the protection, and I’m clipped into the rope. When my clip gets to the rope clip, I have to take the rope out. I also pull out the piece of protection that anchored the rope. That’s cleaning.
Don’t worry, the person on belaying (holding the rope in case you fall) is anchored in, and the rope anchors along the way aren’t necessary anymore.
So I make it up my first real pitch and as my big stupid grinning head pops over the small roof, Fred is grinning back at me just as hard.
“Fun, right?”, he asks nodding his head.
A loud belly laugh is my only answer.

That’s the what. The Why will be posted soon.

An Adventure – Learning to Ski


Today’s Music: Tori Amos

So, here we are, in the ongoing series of “Learning to” Adventures posts.

Some of my best skiing days have happened when I was hung over. I don’t recommend that condition for actually learning to ski though.

This picture isn't me, but could have been. Many times.

Skiing (from Urban Dictionary): somethin a person does in the wintertime to convince oneself that he or she is actually enjoying the 10 degree weather.

The first thing is to get the right clothes.
The first time I went, I wore jeans. And fell a lot. All the dye in the denim seeped right through the top 20 layers of my skin, and I had blue legs through February.

Second thing is have a sense of humor.
You’re going to fall. No way around it. If you can laugh about it, you’ll be able to get back up and learn to stay up that much faster, thereby freeing yourself to laugh at the poor bastard behind you who just did a fantastic slow-mo windmilling flop. While not moving.

Third thing is to get a teacher.
By teacher I mean not just someone who knows how to ski, but someone who can teach it.

Let me explain.
So one winter, Ronnie and Meat decided I should learn how to ski. Sure, why not.
We trundled up to the mountain, and I got my rental gear and lift ticket, and we headed up the mountain. To the top.

Much scarier with planks strapped to your feet. And no idea what you're doing.

This was the lesson, as explained to me by Meat: Ronnie’ll go first and show you what to do. I’ll go behind you to pick up your stuff (see top pic) and tell you what you did wrong.

One thing I learned about cold mountain air – it clears hangovers fast. Well, that and terror.

For those of you have never been to Hunter Mountain, the main skiing face faces east. That means it is softened by the morning sun. Which means?
Exactly. When the sun crests and begins to set in the west, the east face freezes back up. Into sheet ice.

People out west mock the east coast snow. And justifiably, because their’s is much softer and fluffier.
But lemme tell you, if you can ski the east (especially someplace like Hunter), you can ski anywhere.

Back to the lesson.

The fourth thing is to Zip. Up. Your. Jacket. All the way.
We’ve already established that you will fall. At some point, you will probably Yard Sale (again, see top pic).
That’s where both your skis come off and shoot in opposite directions, your poles bounce off to God-knows-where, your hat is half buried in the snow behind you, a glove may have come off, and your lungs are twice their normal size from all the snow forced down your throat as you belly surfed down the hill.
Zipping your jacket will keep at least one square yard of snow off your chest.

Having fun yet?

Looks ridiculous, but it does work.

Good. Because it isn’t all horror. By the end of the day, I was able to use my modified snowplow to zig-zag down the mountain in one piece. I was skiing!

Meat and Ronnie gave me my first lessons in skiing parallel too (as opposed to snowplow), and this gave me (barely) enough control and (way too much) speed to be able to zip down the mountain making some truly…unique maneuvers.
I had so much fun, I eventually forgave them for their wtf teaching method.

Once I could ski at a level near theirs, we needed to add some tricks,
like the Daffy, and the Backscratcher

I've done this! And landed well!

I've done this! The landing was hilarious. And painful.

Now, my wife (the most wonderful girl in the universe) and I try and go skiing at least once a year. I taught her the basics, and she very wisely (and relationship savingly) decided to take a real lesson. She gets better every year. And so do I.

Looking back over this, I think the most important part of learning to ski is to do it because it’s fun, and you want to enjoy it.
Otherwise, you’ll end up with blue legs, or a belly full of ice, or a broken rib (that one really sucked, but I skied the rest of the day anyway), and no big stupid grin to show for it.

Bought these after I knew how to use them. They were great, but their time has passed...

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go see what lift tickets will be this season, and try on my ski hat…

Yes, I do wear it in public. Sometimes, I even wear it to work.

An Adventure – Learning to Sail


Today’s Music: Jimmy Buffett

WHEEEEE!!!!!!

In a June, quite some time ago, Ms. Diamond needed to get certified as a Life Guard.
So, one day in the cafeteria, she dropped the brochure for the place she was going for the lifeguard course on the table.
Being a nosy S.O.B. (though it’s possible sh offered it to me – not sure – been a lot of drinking between then an now), I looked through it.
Sailing! Learn to sail on a lake in Pennsylvania! One person Sunfish! Oh.My. God.

At the time, I was listening to way too much Jimmy Buffett. Parrothead, (mostly) recovered, that’s me.
One of the things Jimmy sings an awful lot about (besides drinking, and women, and food and islands and…) is sailing.
And here was an opportunity to learn it on the cheap!

So I went. My sisters came along to learn to Scuba Dive (in the same lake), but I was there for the sailing.

The first day, it poured. So they brought the sailing group (there was sailing, lifeguarding, scuba, and a bunch of other classes being taught that week) into a cabin. The instructors told us about themselves, told us about the boats we’d be using, and asked us what we wanted to get out of the class, and to draw a picture of it.
I wrote Sail like Magellan. The picture I drew wasn’t quite as bad as this, but lord, it wasn’t good:

Not even Magellan could keep this afloat.

Fortunately, making us artists wasn’t the point of the course. Making us sailors was.
They taught us how to put together a sunfish and take it apart. How to step the mast (insert it in it’s slot so it wouldn’t leave the boat when the sail was filled with wind), how to run the lines (ropes on a boat are called lines), how to tell where the wind was coming from and how to trim the boat (adjust sails and heading (direction) for the wind).
They taught us about the hardware on the boat – the stays and guys, tiller and running rigging, and how all of them held the boat together and made it go.
They taught us witty sailor sayings – “red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky at dawn, storm coming on”, “tiller to boom to avoid doom”, “rain before wind, better stay in. Wind before rain, soon set sail again”.
All phrases that I’ve found useful even in my daily landlubber-ous existence.

And they taught us how to sail.
Picture 5 newbies, each in our own boat, trying to sail in formation. Okay, we managed to get more or less to the same part of the lake, more or less at the same time. But when they told us to sail in close formation, we all managed to get in exactly the same part of the lake at exactly the same time. And had a massive pile up.
I think that was the first time I fell out of my boat, avoiding the nose of another that parked itself on top of me.

But slowly we learned. We understood the points of sail, learned how to trim a sail to take the most advantage of the wind. How to get out of irons, or steer for a buoy.
And we learned to not crash into each other. Unless we really wanted to.

On the last day, we were allowed to sail around on our own. When time was up, I steered in, coming up to the dock neatly against the wind. I put my hands on the dock – to hoist myself out of the boat – my feet still in it.
And the boat, which wasn’t tied down, started to drift…away…from the dock…

Which was the last time I fell in.

I’m sorry I couldn’t find it, because i really wanted to scan and post my Upside Down Award, for falling creatively out of boats. I earned it, dangnabbit.

And before you leave the post chuckling at how i wasted a week, several years later I was invited to crew on the Around Long Island Regatta on a boat something like this:

Image from Charterworld.com

I got here from a Sunfish.